January 8, 2009 Peter

Customer Service and the Business of Meaningful Relationships

Many moons ago I worked for MBNA as a TELEMARKETER!. That’s right, I was the credit card guy who would call you during dinner just to see if you wanted a new credit card. Before you hate me, let me first tell you that I made quite a bit of commission from it. Why does that matter? Well, more money meant that a lot of people liked me enough to stay on the phone, fill out a credit card application, listen to all the mumbo jumbo disclaimers that I had to say “verbatim,” then say that they accepted the terms . After about a year of that I moved of to a department that handled customer service and sales calls. I was so successful at my job of selling and retaining customers that I even got a card from one customer who thanked me for not giving her anything that she originally asked for!

To be honest with you, I was successful because I viewed myself as a customer advocate. If it didn’t seem fair to the customer then the customer got the benefit of the doubt. Everything was done to retain customers even when everything they wanted was legitimately impossible for me to do. At times the customer and I had to agree to disagree and part ways. Looking back I have gained a number of insights to the practical application of excellent customer service to successful relationships.

  1. Don’t take your loyal customers for granted. QUESTION: Would you like to have a satisfied spouse or a loyal spouse? How many times have we taken someone for granted just because we knew they wouldn’t leave, couldn’t leave, or would just give in? What motivation does a company have to treat loyal companies like royalty when the customers cannot leave because on contracts?  We’ve all been there. We have been loyal customers and then the company tries to pull one on us. We demand changes but we really have no weight behind our words because we cannot speak with our feet. Those that have committed to you have done so freely. They found value in you and care for you. Why in the world would you treat them like an enemy?
  2. Never threaten a customer. A woman’s greatest fear is to be abandoned and to be lied to. How would you feel if someone you trusted threatened you with abandonment or some form of punishment? What does that do to the relationship? Why threaten the very person who trusts you. Why threaten the very person who wants to be in a relationship with you?
  3. Simplify: Avril Lavgine said it right, “Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?”  Relationships should not be that complicated. Oh, complicated situations may come and go but the simplicity of the relationship should never complicate life. Relationships are about people growing individually and as a whole together. Don’t make the relationship like the terms and conditions of cell phone packages. The K.I.S.S philosophy should always be kept in mind.
  4. You got to let it go: I knew some customer service reps who just wouldn’t let anything go. A customer would call and explain their particular dilemma and ask for a reprieve. Even if MBNA was right in the “letter of the law” sense, it would have cost MBNA more to stick to that law than to let it slide.

    QUESTION: Is it a business’s goal to make money or put the smack down on all those who fail to live up to the standard of the contract?

    QUESTION FOR YOU: Is it your goal to grow in the relationship together or punish someone because of some willy-nilly expectation that was neither communicated or reasonable? 

  5. Remember Your Story: Every business in the service industry knows that unless you want to be a one hit wonder you are going to have to create an experience (a story) for the customer to grasp. Love is about serving and putting the other person first before yourself. What is the story that you are telling with your actions within the relationship? Successful businesses will always put the needs of the customer first and go out of the way for the customer because the needs of the customer is the life blood of the business. Those business will remember what is important and give random gifts from time to time.

Things to ponder:

  1. What are some weaknesses in your relationships that need to be changed.
  2. What is something that you can do for the other that is totally unexpected but important for the other person?

Anything else you think I can add? Comment your thoughts?

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